The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) is now offering deep brain stimulation (DBS) for treatment of patients with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The DBS procedure sends signals to parts of the brain using electrodes inserted through the skull which are connected to controllers under the chest.

It is used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders, and is also being tried experimentally for people with severe depression.

“The department will offer the surgery under a humanitarian device exemption and it will be limited to adults with such severe OCD that they haven’t responded to psychotherapy or medication.”

UPMC epilepsy and movement disorder surgery director Mark Richardson told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette: “There are a lot of people with OCD, but when you whittle it down to the people who would qualify, it’s a smaller number.”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted DBS as a routine surgery for Parkinson’s, essential tremor, dystonia and other movement disorders.

DBS experimental trials for depression have targeted two different areas. One area seems to dampen negative feelings and the other tries to boost positive emotions.

UPMC researchers intend to use a special kind of brain imaging called magnetoencephalography to detect the magnetic fields the brain creates, measuring the before-and-after effect of DBS.

According to previous studies, about half of the patients in small groups have significant relief of OCD symptoms after the DBS surgery.